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Healthy Living with Diabetes

Jewel Osco Registered Dietitians


Mar 13th, 2017


by Sara Wing, RD

If you have recently been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you’ve probably been instructed to focus on making healthy food choices to help control your blood sugar. Following a healthy diet can also help you manage your weight and control other things like blood pressure and cholesterol, which can contribute to heart disease if they get too high.

As a person living with diabetes, it’s important to pay attention to what you’re eating and make smart food decisions. There are a couple of approaches you can take including using the plate method or counting carbohydrates. Take the time to become familiar with all of these methods so that you can decide which one will work best for you.

Healthy Eating Strategies For Diabetics

  • The Plate Method: A simple seven-step method developed by the American Diabetes Association. To use it, divide your plate in half and then divide one side in half again. Fill the largest part with non-starchy vegetables, one small section with starchy foods and the other section with protein. Add a serving of fruit and dairy, a zero or low-calorie drink and a small amount of healthy fats.
  • Carb Counting: A method often used if you need to give yourself insulin. Carbohydrates break down into glucose so they affect your blood sugar the most. Learning about correct portion sizes and reading labels can help you learn how many carbs you’re eating and determine how much insulin you need at each meal and snack.

It’s important to remember that not all foods in a food group are created equally. When choosing vegetables, remember that there are two types – starchy and non-starchy.  Making non-starchy vegetables the basis of most meals is a great strategy for helping to control your blood glucose.

Types of Vegetables

  • Non-starchy vegetables include foods like green beans, broccoli, carrots, eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, lettuce and more!
  • Starchy vegetables include things like potatoes, corn, peas and squash.

When choosing carbohydrates, whole grains and other high fiber choices are best. Complex carbohydrates are digested more slowly and won’t spike your blood sugar that way refined carbohydrates will.

Types of Carbohydrates

  • Complex carbs include foods like brown rice, 100% whole wheat bread and pasta and rolled oats.
  • Refined carbohydrates include things like white bread and white rice and are often found in processed foods.
  • You can also look for lower carb options to replace pasta, including spaghetti squash and zucchini noodles.

Proteins and Healthy Fats

When considering your protein intake, focus on heart-healthy options like lean meats, fish, eggs and dairy products like milk, plain yogurt and cheese.

  • Be mindful about choosing healthy fat sources like avocado, nuts, olive oil and seeds.
  • Always focus on choosing healthy portion sizes.

Remember that taking the time to prep some food ahead of time can help make your weekly food choices easier and keep you from reaching for processed snacks and other foods that might spike your blood sugar.

Need some recipe inspiration to get started cooking diabetes-friendly meals in your kitchen?


Cheesy Cauliflower Tots

Recipe and photo courtesy of Katie


  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • 4 ounces Cabot Sharp Cheddar, shredded (about 1 cup)


  1. Core cauliflower and cut into florets. Process in food processor fitted with the steel blade attachment, in two batches, until the cauliflower looks like fine rice. Place 3 tablespoons water in the bottom of a large sauce pan. Add the cauliflower mixture. Cover and steam over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is very soft, about 6 minutes. Line a colander with a clean linen towel. Scrape the cauliflower mixture into the towel, and let sit to cool, about 30 minutes. Wrap cauliflower up into a bundle, and then squeeze bundle from the top down to remove the excess moisture from the cauliflower. Continue squeezing until the cauliflower is about half its original volume and you’ve squeezed off about 1 1/3 cup of liquid.
  2. Whisk egg, garlic powder, salt, pepper and paprika in a large bowl. Add the cauliflower and stir to combine. Add cheddar cheese. Stir to combine.
  3. Preheat oven to 400° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly mist parchment with cooking spray.
  4. Form cauliflower into little football shapes by scooping back and forth between two soup spoons. Arrange tots, evenly spaced on baking sheet. Bake until the bottoms are browned, and the cauliflower mixture has set up, 15 to 18 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before removing the tots from the parchment with a thin spatula.

Servings: 7-8

Nutritional Facts (per serving)

Calories: 120, Total Fat: 7g , Saturated Fat: 4 g , Cholesterol: 50 mg, Sodium: 370mg, Total Carbohydrate: 8 g, Dietary Fiber: 3 g, Protein: 9 g, Calcium: 171 mg

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